The company posted to its Microsoft Developer Network Web site "beta 1 release candidate" versions of Avalon, a 3-D graphics technology it's developing, and Indigo, software for building peer-to-peer applications. Microsoft plans to include final versions of both in the next version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, which is due late next year. Microsoft last week also released to developers code for building apps that use InfoCard technology, potentially a way for PC users to store credentials to Web apps.
This is the second time in three months Microsoft is making Longhorn code available to select audiences. These releases are aimed at developers getting ready for Longhorn, the first major new desktop version of Windows since 2001. The Avalon and Indigo updates, plus special compatibility extensions for the beta version of Microsoft's next set of development tools, follow "community technology preview" versions of Avalon and Indigo released in March. At that time, Microsoft also made the APIs to Avalon and Indigo available to users of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.
In its latest iteration, Indigo gets a feature called peer channel for building apps such as online chat, business workspace, virtual whiteboard programs, and multiplayer games without the need for centralized servers. It works with HTTP or TCP. Avalon apps now support online video, and Microsoft also delivers technology for reading documents built with Metro, a PDF alternative under development for viewing and printing documents without the apps that created them.
InfoCard lets PC users create a virtual index card containing information they need to log on to apps built with Indigo. Users' data would live on their own computers, or those at E-commerce companies they deal with, but not on Microsoft's servers, says Michael Stephenson, director of product management. "This is designed to put control back in the hands of end users."